Friday, June 01, 2012

Kelly Hogan: "I Like To Keep Myself In Pain" (album review)

It's been eleven years since we've heard a new album from Kelly Hogan.  The alt-country crooner has been busy in the meantime, performing with a who's who of the industry.

The new album, I Like To Keep Myself In Pain, comes out on June 5th.  It's a baker's dozen songs strong, featuring only one Hogan original amongst a batch of songs written specifically for her by some of the best songwriters working today (including the likes of Robbie FulksVic Chesnutt and Andrew Bird).

The songs tend towards the more plaintive side, emphasizing Hogan's strong lungs rather than a fancy arrangement.  The title track, penned by Robyn Hitchcock, is a sad lament, made even more sad by Hogan's gut-wrenching delivery.  She saves the most passion for her own track "Golden".  Surprisingly, the dreamiest number comes via The Dap-Kings' Gabriel Roth's "Slumber's Sympathy".

The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt proves his versatility once again, churning out a wistfully dusty country crooner that could esay come from a legend like Loretta Lynn.

While twang dominates the album, including the organ-swirling opener "Dusty Groove", there are a handful of moments when Hogan diverges from the script.  The M. Ward tune "Daddy's Little Girl", for example, includes that ever-so-slight luau aura that permeates many M. Ward songs.

The volume does get turned up on occasion.  "Haunted" is a forceful country rocker with a foot-stomping 'nah-nah-nah-na-na' refrain.  The up-tempo "Sleeper Awake" offers a moment to rejoice.

With great songwriters, a superb voice, and solid arrangements, there's very little to pick apart on I Like To Keep Myself In Pain.

Best tracks: "Slumber's Sympathy", "Sleeper Awake"

Track listing for I Like To Keep Myself In Pain:
  • Dusty Groove
  • We Can't Have Nice Things
  • I Like To Keep Myself In Pain
  • Haunted
  • Daddy's Little Girl
  • Golden
  • Ways of the World
  • Slumber's Sympathy
  • Plant White Roses
  • Sleeper Awake
  • The Green Willow Valley
  • Whenever You're Out of My Sight
  • Pass On By

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